The University of Maryland (UMD) and Maryland's largest brewery are committed to developing the highest quality ingredients for Maryland beer.
Flying Dog Brewery and UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources have engaged in a partnership that will allow them to work side-by-side on the future of beer-centric agriculture in the region. To start, the focus is on hops.
“Hop farming in the state of Maryland continues to grow, and what we appreciate most about the program is the practical approach to the business of beer agriculture,” Matt Brophy, chief operating officer for Flying Dog, said. “It’s equal parts commitment to the development of our existing farms and providing local breweries with the highest quality ingredients.”
Hops used in craft beer production need to meet the same quality standards that are achieved in traditional hop growing regions of the world. Understanding this dynamic, UMD has established a replicated variety trial using 24 varieties of hops at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center (WMREC) in Keedysville, Maryland. The trials will collect critical information on how Maryland’s unique climate affects harvest date, levels of acids and oil in the hops, and any special aspects of profile.
“I am thrilled to be part of a partnership with a business leader in the state that has the foresight to help an entire industry grow using research-based information,” Bryan Butler, extension agent for UMD, said.
The current planting consists of 24 varieties of hops with each variety replicated three times. The first 12 varieties – planted in 2016 – were selected from discussions with academic and industry experts on what might perform well in this area and what was being used by brewers. The second 12 varieties were selected based on an informal survey of Maryland growers and brewers to establish what might be most marketable in this region.
As a land grant institution, the University of Maryland aims to provide information to producers on the viability and marketability of these varieties, as producers will need research-based details on not only varieties, but also disease, insect and fertility management specific to the mid-Atlantic, quality analysis of harvested hops and economic viability of hops as a crop.
To compliment the program, Flying Dog will help fund hop processing equipment for UMD and provide resources to analyze and evaluate each test crop the program harvests. Flying Dog will also develop beers using those hops, eliciting feedback from and exposing craft beer fans to the full potential of local hops.
“One of the most critical components of data collection for this trial is the timing of harvest because it directly affects the value of the crop,” Butler said. “Harvesting must be done consistently, and within a narrow window of time, to ensure maximum production, quality, and comparison of varieties. Flying Dog’s partnership will allow us to invest in a harvester, which will ensure that hops are harvested properly, and that data on each yield is realistic and relevant to growers.”
A culmination of these hop trials will be an annual guide that both UMD and Flying Dog will produce on growing hops in the mid-Atlantic, which will summarize best management practices specific to this region, something Brophy thinks is crucial to the continued growth and development of local hop farms.
UMD will also work with Flying Dog on the East Coast Hop Project, a limited-edition variety pack slated for release in the spring of 2018. It will feature three different beers, each one highlighting a different East Coast hop farm and regionally-viable hop varieties. Black Locust Hops, located in northern Baltimore County, and Pleasant Valley Hops, located in Rohrersville, Maryland, have already signed onto the project.
“By promoting and engaging East Coast hop farms, Flying Dog and UMD hope to accelerate both supply and demand for quality local hops,” Brophy said.